Interpreting as a Discourse Process

By Cynthia B. Roy | Go to book overview
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Discourse

Discourse Analysis

It must seem to those slightly familiar with the term discourse that terms such as sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, and conversation analysis are used interchangeably. Its companion term, discourse analysis, seems to be used especially frequently, even randomly, so that it is difficult to know exactly what is meant by the term. One reason is that a number of different academic disciplines use the term to describe the methods and models they develop to understand language and human behavior. "Included are not just disciplines in which models for understanding, and methods for analyzing, discourse first developed (i.e., linguistics, anthropology, sociology, philosophy; see Van Dijk 1985), but also disciplines that have applied (and thus often extended) such models and methods to problems within their own particular academic domains, e.g., communication ( Craig and Tracy 1983), social psychology ( Potter and Wetherell 1987), and artifical intelligence ( Reichman 1985)" ( Schiffrin 1994:5).

What is meant by discourse can be a complicated and lengthy explanation. For such explanations I refer readers to Schiffrin ( 1994) and van Dijk ( 1997a. b). As van Dijk ( 1997a: 1) notes, discourse is a concept and a term that stands for complex phenomena and thus requires entire chapters, if not volumes, to define and describe. Within this study, however, discourse is language as it is actually uttered by people engaged in social interaction to accomplish a goal. My use of the concept is that developed in linguistics where a central goal of most discourse approaches is to discover and demonstrate how participants in a conversation make

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